Navigating Adulthood: Embracing Solitude, Friendship, and Growth

September 07, 2023

Sophia Kianni is an Iranian-American activist studying science, technology, & society at Stanford University. She is the founder and executive director of Climate Cardinals, an international nonprofit with 9,000 volunteers in 40+ countries working to translate climate information into over 100 languages. She represents the U.S as the youngest member on the inaugural United Nations Youth Advisory Group on Climate Change. She sits on boards and advisory councils for The New York Times, World Economic Forum, Web Summit, Inkey List, Iris Project, JUV Consulting, Ashoka, and American Lung Association. She has been named VICE Media’s youngest Human of the Year, a National Geographic Young Explorer, among Business Insider’s Climate Action 30, one of Teen Vogue’s 21 under 21, and a Forbes 30 under 30 honoree.

This story took place in United States

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(Sophia speaking at the United Nations.)

As I reflect upon my journey from adolescence to where I stand now, I am reminded of the remarkable influence of solitude, the enduring bond of friendship, and the art of self-discovery. The transition from adolescence to adulthood is an intricate process marked by significant changes, challenges, and moments of revelation. Through the highs and lows of this transformative period, one constant that has been my guiding light has been my cherished friendships.

My friendship with my best friend Katherine Ilkhani, whom I met in my junior year of high school and now get to work with almost every day, has withstood the test of time and distance. In an era of rapid communication and connectivity, Katherine and I uphold our long distance friendship by FaceTiming. These calls, which have evolved from lighthearted chats to deep conversations about life, dreams, and challenges, have played a pivotal role in keeping us grounded while maintaining our long distance friendship. This kind of friendship serves as a reminder that even amidst the chaos of life, we can count on each other’s support. 

Maintaining genuine friendships and contact with people who inspire and encourage you is key. It is also good to note that growing apart from people is a very natural occurrence in early adulthood. While it can be a disappointing process, you should always remember that the people who are meant to stay in your life will remain, and holding on to relationships and friendships with people who you are no longer growing with will only hold you back from reaching your full potential.

While making time for your friendships is rewarding, it is important to strike a balance and set boundaries for yourself as you navigate adulthood. The demands of life can be unrelenting, but by establishing clear limits, you preserve time for self-reflection and protect your well-being. In a world where the pace of life can be overwhelming at times, spending time alone is a rare and precious gift you can give yourself. One of the most valuable pieces of advice I can offer to those in the throes of transitioning to adulthood is the significance of solitude. It is during moments of solitude that we truly introspect and learn about ourselves—our aspirations, fears, and strengths.

Nowadays, society often drives actions centered around instant gratification, with the phenomenon of ‘FOMO’ reaching new heights partially as a result of social media. However, I have learned that a substantial portion of my journey’s success has stemmed from exercising self-control. Rather than chasing fleeting pleasures, adhering to my beliefs and diligently pursuing my aspirations have been the cornerstones of my success in early adulthood. However, while everyone’s journey is different, this principle has universal relevance.

So, whether it’s finding your path in the vast expanse of choices that adulthood presents, setting boundaries to maintain your sanity, or embracing solitude to foster personal growth, remember that the journey is uniquely yours and that you are the writer of your life’s script. Cherish the friendships that stand the test of time, but also treasure the moments of quiet reflection, because they will change the course of your life for the better. Just as Katherine and I have learned to support each other from a distance, we’ve also learned that the ability to walk alone is a rare and invaluable skill—one that provides profound insights, allowing us to shape our lives with intention and purpose. 

Admittedly, a lesson that has been somewhat difficult for me – as a perfectionist – to accept is that hardship, failure, and loss are inevitable, no matter how much you try to avoid them. What has gotten me through hardships is reminding myself that every challenge carries a blessing in disguise, which fuels my determination to persevere and not succumb to the weight of life’s challenges, but rather summon the strength to rise above them. 

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